To prepare capacity assessments and audits, attempts should be made to get a first overview of the status of affairs in the region / organization / department. This can be achieved by reflecting upon the following questions:
- What kinds of legislation are of relevance?
- Which stakeholders (individuals, organizations providing services in the public and private sector, civil society (advocacy), public administration, political system) are involved?
- How connected is the region / organization at national / international level (member of specific networks; national / international projects; availability of good practices)?
- Which activities, projects, programmes are in place?
- Which statistics (population, target group, budgets, expenditure, infrastructure, workforce, service provision etc.) are available?
Available materials should be used to identify relevant stakeholders and the right questions. Sometimes, there is very limited information available, in which case experts can become key sources of information. Professionals in public administration, health insurance, an organization that provides a health service within universities or civil society organizations etc. can help to map the situation and to identify the right people for further interviews, additional materials, stakeholders and interview partners.
As soon as the right people for an interview have been identified, research into more focused information should continue. For conducting interviews it is helpful to have as many details as possible about their function and activities, the organizational environment as well as the environment of the organization.
At the beginning of the interview the kind of capacities the discussion should focus upon need to be known. However, interviewees cannot or do not always provide all the information required; they can mainly offer specific kinds of expert knowledge in specific areas. While it might be of relevance to identify knowledge gaps, the interview should be flexible enough not to dwell on questions that do not match the interviewee’s expertise / experience. This prevents the risk of the interviewee feeling uncomfortable, with negative consequences for the interview and the capacity audit.
There are also situations in which the interviewer already has considerable information / knowledge about the capacities of interest while in many other circumstances previous knowledge is quite limited. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to prepare interviews in a very detailed manner because respective materials are not available. In such a case, you should start “from scratch” and develop knowledge from interview to interview. When information is available the person conducting the audit should be open to new information, insights and expertise from interviewees. This will prevent bias and prejudice.
- A field worker might be an expert in legal issues and national / regional programmes . He can also provide information about his/her organizational environment / organization.
- The head of unit or organization might have expertise in labour markets, the education of professionals or other organizations and sectors. He can also share information about his/her organization, ideas and restrictions to organizational development.
- A senior official or politician at a regional or even national level could have insight into the actual situation in the region or at local level, as well as into organizations providing services. It is also highly likely that he or she would be able to provide information about political debates, policy developments, existing legislation etc.
- Some people already have knowledge about capacities, some about capacity gaps, while others about capacity development and capacities needed for capacity development.
- The interviewer should therefore try to find out before and during the interview what kind of expert knowledge is being offered – and use this as a strategy.